The great escape

JIM BENDER

, Last Updated: 8:44 AM ET

REGINA -- The Miracle Manitobans are hoping for one last act of wonder this morning.

Manitoba's Jennifer Jones escaped the Scotties Tournament of Hearts semifinal with a 9-8 victory over Ontario's Sherry Middaugh in an extra end at the Brandt Centre yesterday afternoon.

Jones, who has engineered perhaps the most impressive comeback in the history of the Hearts, stole the winning point when Middaugh failed to make a straight-back double for the win.

"Yeah, absolutely," said Manitoba third Cathy Overton-Clapham when asked if they escaped with the victory. "We got fortunate at the end, obviously. You never want to win on someone's miss but we'll take it."

It was Middaugh's fourth loss in as many semifinals.

"Not another one," the classy Middaugh lamented after being consoled by husband Wayne. "Most curlers, if they ever said they won four bronze medals at a Canadian championship would be happy with it. But over and over again, getting that close, and we played well all week ...

"Just an inch here or there, but my goodness two extra-end games in the playoffs and even the two games we lost in the round robin were close games. So we had a heck of a week. I'd like to play this week again and make one more shot."

Her miss in the 11th will keep her up nights, Middaugh said.

"You know, pretty routine shot," she said. "There are lots of shots that keep me up at night. There are shots from four years ago that I still think about."

Middaugh had also lost the Page playoff 1-vs-2 game to Alberta's Shannon Kleibrink in an extra end.

"We played Middaugh twice this year and she stole two ends against us in the extra when we had hammer, so we figure it was time it came around for our turn," Jones said of her good karma.

Jones advances to today's 11:30 a.m. final against Kleibrink riding a seven-game winning streak.

"It doesn't matter how many we won to get here," Jones said. "We have to win (today) or it really isn't that significant, except that we're pretty proud of how we turned it around and are playing as well as we're playing."

Kleibrink, who is on a six-game streak of her own, shrugged off Manitoba's momentum.

"In our minds, we actually have the momentum," she said. "We only lost one game all week and they lost four. I know they're on a roll now, so we'll have to be sharp."

Today's winner will represent Canada at the women's world championship in Vernon, B.C., March 22-30. They'll also earn berths into both the Canada and Continental Cups, and $144,000 in Olympic sports funding. Each finalist also gets $15,500.

Should Jones win, her foursome will earn the first bye into the 2009 Canadian Curling Trials.

BITERS: The Scotties' dream team was comprised of skip Shannon Kleibrink, third Amy Nixon and lead Chelsey Bell (all of Alberta) and second Jill Officer (Manitoba). The second team was: skip Sherry Middaugh (Ontario), third Cathy Overton-Clapham and lead Dawn Askin (both of Manitoba) and second Sasha Carter (Team Canada) ... The Joan Mead Award for contributions to the sport was given posthumously to CBC broadcaster Don Wittman. His son, David, and daughter-in-law, Sharon, were presented with the award in a post-game ceremony ... P.E.I.'s Stefanie Clark won the Marj Mitchell Sportsmanship Award.


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